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Baylor vs. SMU Preview/Prediction Thread

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About 29 hours from now, we'll all be watching real Baylor Football once again versus the Ponies of Southern Methodist.

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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
vs.
4/4 BAYLOR (0-0, 0-0) vs. NR/NR SMU (0-0, 0-0)
Sept. 4, 2015 | 6 p.m. CT
Dallas, Texas | Ford Stadium (32,000)

TV: ESPN
Listen | Gametracker Gametracker | Game Notes Notes | Tickets | Gameday Central

ODB Game Hub: Baylor vs. SMU 2015
First Look: SMU Mustangs
OurDailyPodcast:
SMU and Season Predictions
ODB Roll Call:
W/ TV, Radio, and Watch Party Info
SMU SB Nation Blog:
Underdog Dynasty
Spread: Baylor -36 | O/U 73.5

Uniform: StormTrooper

SB Nation 2015 Baylor Preview
SB Nation 2015 SMU Preview

Weather Forecast: Game time forecast is below, courtesy of Weather Underground.

Baylor vs. SMU weather

In case you're new around these parts and haven't been through a Game Week with us before, this week is not really representative of how things typically work.  For one thing, our games aren't normally on Friday night, compressing a 5-day week into just 4 days.  For another, because it's the first game of the season, we don't really have the full complement of statistical tools at our disposal.  When we kick off the full-blown Advanced Stats Previews in two weeks versus Rice (because Lamar won't have Advanced Stats as an FCS school), you'll see what I mean.

Another thing I've gotten quite a few questions about is the game-by-game predictions we started last season and never really finished.  To be honest, I don't know whether that's happening in an official capacity this year or not.  I'm going to guess not.  Thankfully, ODB user GoldenWave91 has stepped into the void with a prediction fanpost that should serve the same purpose!  I really appreciate his/her help in this, and I hope everyone participates there that wants to.

Advanced Stats:

As I said above, we don't really have everything we will eventually have, since no games have yet been played.  What we do have is projections based off of a number of historic factors that may or may not actually have any impact.  But it's the best we can do right now.

Category

Baylor (0-0)

SMU (0-0)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk UNK
UNK
BAYLOR?
Overall FEI Rk 4 (.235)
112 (-.150)
BAYLOR
Overall S&P+ Rk 13 (16.2)
119 (-15.7)
BAYLOR
Field Position Advantage UNK
UNK BAYLOR?

If you're wondering why I'm including stats for which we have no values, it's because we use these charts over and over again throughout the season, and it makes sense to have them in the same format.

Please don't be scared off by any of the numbers above if you're not familiar with them.  Peter is (I think) going to do a full-blown explanation thread for them once we have more information that should make a lot more sense.  Also, if you're scared by the overall numbers, things are going to get a lot worse for you before they get better when we start talking about more specific stats.  Believe me.

For this game, the projected stats don't really tell us all that much about the expected outcome besides "Baylor = Good, SMU = Bad," but even that isn't extremely useful given that there's so much about this SMU team that we just don't know.  Gone is June Jones and his lackadaisical attitude to virtually everything.  In his place is Chad Morris, a genuine CFB wunderkind in the mold of Art Briles himself that rose from the Texas HS ranks a little over a decade ago.

We're going to predict the outcome of this game both in this thread and in the fanpost, but if we're being honest with each other, we're not going to be doing it based on all that much.  We can be reasonably sure that with 18 returning starters, Baylor is the more talented team.  We can be similarly sure that SMU won't be clicking on anything close to all cylinders in their first game under a new coach with a new offensive system.  Regardless how good Morris is-- and I've been clear that I think he's really good-- this is a tough draw for SMU in his opener, even at their place.

One thing we talked about on last night's podcast is the fact that, considering this is only the second start of his career, Seth Russell is liable to play a relatively significant amount.  The biggest question facing this team is whether he can handle the load at QB, and that's a question we need answered. I'm not saying he'll go the distance unless he's required to (and then we have other problems), but you might see him play more than you'd otherwise expect. And that could mean more points.

Players to Watch (for SMU):

QB Matt Davis -- Last season, the former-A&M transfer threw the ball for just 855 yards with 3 TDs and 5 INTs, but also ran for 721 yards and 4 TDs on 8.1 yards per carry.  We had zero trouble corralling him in Waco a year ago, but that was his first game ever for SMU, and he didn't expect to play.  I'm not overly concerned about his ability to throw the ball since SMU's two leading returning receivers had 379 and 188 yards, respectively, but his ability to run is a different story.  Our LBs, particularly Taylor Young and Travon Blanchard, need to be sharp, and our DEs have to keep contain on the pocket.

WRs Darius Joseph and Deion Sanders, Jr. -- Those are the two returning WRs I just mentioned, and though neither are very big, both are pretty fast.  Watch for Sanders to line up in the slot and try to test our safeties/nickel, while Joseph will probably be on the outside. Sanders will also probably be their primary punt/kick returner, where he could do some damage if we aren't careful.

The Entire Offensive Line -- They all came back from last year's team and will block for Davis and Prescott Line, who isn't terrible.  Will they be enough to stop Andrew Billings, Shawn Oakman, Beau Blackshear, and Jamal Palmer? I'm doubting it.

My Prediction:

In addition to the above, I think we can be reasonably sure of the following things:

  • Baylor has a better offensive line than SMU, despite their experience.
  • Baylor has a far better defensive line than SMU.
  • Baylor has better skill position players, particularly at WR.
  • Baylor has more experience virtually everywhere on the field.
  • Special Teams could be hilariously un-fun.

You add those things up, particularly the first two, and you get a game with a spread that has actually risen from Baylor -35.5 to Baylor -36 over the course of the last four days, and that doesn't look to be falling any time soon.  In addition, the O/U for the game has actually gone down, indicating to me that people aren't all that sure how many points SMU will score.

Last year, I predicted that Baylor would win by a final score of 59-17, a 42-point win.  We ended up doing even better, shutting them out 45-0.  I don't think that's going to happen this year, mostly because I don't expect the Ponies to be nearly so inept on offense.  "But Seymour," you say, "don't you also expect us to be better on defense?"  Yes, I do, but random things happen in games, particularly ones occurring in the first week of the season and that aren't expected to be real "games" late.  Be honest, do you really expect our 2nd/3rd-team defense to keep SMU completely off the scoreboard in the second half? Neither do I.

What I do expect, however, is...

Final Score: Baylor 59, SMU 20.*

*I changed this number a half-dozen times, at least. It might be too high.

Give me your predictions in the comments and vote in the poll!